Welfare rules – Kansas lawmakers have a knack for being spiteful, and proved it again by trying to make life more difficult for low-income families. The ongoing, ultraconservative-led war on the poor brought legislation that prohibits the use of welfare funds for such purchases as massages, tattoos, fortune telling and cruise vacations – as if all poor Kansans are entertaining themselves in such ways instead of spending government assistance on rent, food and other necessities. Even worse, the policy would limit ATM withdrawals from individual benefit accounts to $25 a day. Would legislators tell farmers who accept sizable farm subsidies – also government assistance – they can’t spend money in such ways? Of course not. Nor should they.
The law is mean-spirited – hateful, actually. How do lawmakers justify giving away billions to companies and wealthier people every year with no end in sight, yet feel compelled to restrict how poor people spend their pittance? The double standards have no justification, but are easy to understand. Poor people do not contribute to campaigns, and they certainly have no lobbying presence in Topeka.
Instead of trying to micromanage the lives of people who need assistance, lawmakers should spend time on legislation that would help working people support themselves and their families. A fairer minimum wage would be a good place to start. Policies requiring more regular hours so that workers can attend school or manage second jobs would help a lot, too. That kind of legislation requires effort, however, and an inevitable fight with businesses. Sadly, it’s much easier for legislators to justify their existence in office by cracking down on the poor.
Pot vote – The people of Wichita have spoken, and they want to see reduced penalties for people who possess marijuana. But the immediate reaction from the people’s government is to say the people are wrong. Even more laughable is that this group of Constitution-loving lawmakers and administration officials will rely on the state’s courts to usurp the will of the people – courts supposedly filled with so many “activist” judges that Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, introduced legislation to make it easier to impeach them if they don’t march in lockstep with the Legislature. Such a response runs counter to the state’s conservative politicians’ incessant blathering about small government, local control and the rights of the people to decide their own fate. Once again, this group has shown it’s only interested in small government and upholding the will of the people when it’s deemed “right.”
Turnpike merger – Legislation passed two years ago to give the Kansas Department of Transportation more authority over the Kansas Turnpike was presented as a trial and even included a provision for certain provisions to sunset on July 1, 2016. For better or worse, that trial now has been declared a success in a bill signed March 30 by Gov. Sam Brownback. Income from turnpike tolls always has been reserved for staffing and maintaining the turnpike, but some Kansans are concerned that won’t continue to be the case. Could KTA funds be diverted to pay for non-KTA projects or depleted, as KDOT funds have been, to help balance other areas of the state budget?